MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray admits he would prefer to be taking on teams with little riding on the outcome of their end-of-season encounters.
As it is, Boro have four home matches remaining against sides at either end of the Championship table.
First up is tomorrow’s visit of second-tier strugglers Bristol City.
They are just one place above the trapdoor to League One while Doncaster Rovers, who visit Teesside next month, are second from bottom.
The other two visitors are league leaders Southampton, bidding for successive promotions, and Cardiff City, Boro’s play-off rivals.
Mowbray said: “We’ve got four home games left, two against clubs at the bottom scrapping for their lives and two against teams right at the top – and you wouldn’t know which are going to be the more difficult.
“I genuinely believe Bristol City and Doncaster will be just as difficult for us as Cardiff and Southampton. That’s the nature of the league. There are no easy days.”
The midweek results favoured Mowbray’s men as Blackpool, Cardiff City and Burnley all failed to gain significant ground on the sixth-placed Riversiders.
“There were some unbelievable scores on Tuesday,” he said. “And Wednesday saw some unlikely results as well.
“Teams just can’t seem to get over the line. Maybe it’s a lack of quality, but it’s an amazing league.
“It’s very difficult in the Championship for everybody, as we are seeing, and all we can do is look after ourselves.”
Mowbray is hoping to have Rhys Williams back at his disposal before the end of the season – if Boro can make it to the play-offs.
The Australia international is still in a plaster cast as he continues his recovery from ankle ligament damage.
Mowbray said: “Rhys has at least another 10 days in a cast, then it will be at least another couple of weeks after that before he’s ready for action.
“If we are not able to get into the top two – and you would have to say we would have to win a lot of games back-to-back for that to happen – then our goal is to make sure our season extends beyond April 28 into the play-offs.
“Hopefully, Rhys can still play a part in this season for us if things extend beyond the final fixture.”